With no seniors and only two juniors on scholarship, the Georgia Tech basketball team is young and inexperienced, but the Yellow Jackets have perhaps the most talented collection of players in the ACC.
"I think we have most of the pieces to the puzzle," said junior guard Marvin Lewis, a Germantown native and the team's most experienced player. "We have a point guard who likes to pass, shooters on the wings and post players inside. So for the most part, we're pretty balanced.
"Coach [Paul Hewitt] always talks about forgetting the fact that we're a young team, we have talent. Once we gel and get all the talent together, we're going to be able to beat anybody."
And that is why there is plenty of concern on the part of eighth-ranked Maryland, which will play Georgia Tech on Sunday afternoon. The Terrapins won the teams' first meeting, 84-77, on Dec. 29, but that game was in College Park. Sunday's game will be at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, where the Yellow Jackets are 10-0 this season.
Freshman Chris Bosh, a slender 6-foot-10 forward from outside of Dallas, leads Georgia Tech in scoring (16.3 points per game), rebounding and shooting (61 percent from the field). He is excellent in the post and also can shoot from three-point range (12 of 22 on the season). Scouts from 18 NBA teams are expected to be in attendance today, many coming primarily to see the heralded 18-year-old, who some compare to a young Tim Duncan.
While he is the center of attention, Bosh prefers to avoid speculation regarding his future.
"It's just something I keep in the back of my head," said Bosh, who is 11/2 months away from turning 19. "I really don't think about that when I'm playing. If you start thinking about that, it can mess up your head and take you off track."
In addition to Bosh, Georgia Tech's starting lineup includes one freshman (point guard Jarrett Jack from Fort Washington) and three sophomores. Forward Ed Nelson was the ACC rookie of the year last season and the other starting forward, B.J. Elder, is an explosive emerging star.
The Yellow Jackets also have depth, with forwards Isma'il Muhammad and Anthony McHenry and 7-3 center Luke Schenscher coming off the bench. All three are sophomores.
All of the youth, though, has led to inconsistency. At home, the Yellow Jackets beat No. 17 Georgia and routed North Carolina State by 26 points. But on the road Georgia Tech has been dreadful, going 1-7, including a 14-point loss at Tulane and a 27-point loss at Syracuse.
"They're still a relatively young team, [and] you see that with a lot of young teams," Maryland Coach Gary Williams said. "They're a much different team at home. They're more aggressive."
Williams then alluded to Georgia Tech's previous two games, a 20-point victory over Virginia -- at home, of course -- and a two-point loss to struggling Clemson this past Tuesday -- on the road, of course.
"It looks like two different teams," Williams said.
Even Georgia Tech's players do not dispute the disparity in their play.
"We're just a lot more confident [at home] -- you can see it in our play," Lewis said. "Our basketball is much more exciting. If we can play 40 minutes on the road, we'll be fine, but at home we definitely play 40 minutes of good basketball."
Like the Yellow Jackets, the Terrapins are seeking a more consistent effort. After his team's 86-78 loss to Virginia this past Thursday, Williams was particularly critical of his team's defensive effort, a feeling that did not subside after he reviewed the game tape.
"You try to get something positive out of every game," Williams said. "We had some guys who didn't play with the intensity level necessary to compete in this league. The way I handle it is it's a one-game thing."
Williams said he identified three players who looked particularly flat and met individually with each player in an attempt to change things.
"Very one-sided," Williams said when asked about the meetings. "They listened. I talked."